I was a software programmer/developer years ago, when Jamie Dimon was just some banking guy. (Brag Moment: my biggest project that I created, developed, and programmed made his top 15 accomplishments for the bank in 2000. Yeah, I will tell everybody that story til the day I die.) Anywhoo, it has been my goal to teach programming to my boys. I’ve tried several things like online tutorials, books “just for kids”, and plain old sitting down with them and walking them through it. They even tried learning by doing www.roblox.com and using their online tutorials. I won’t give you the details because I don’t want you to start there. It just does not work and I will tell you why.
While they did learn a bit here and there we always came across thinking through the logic of steps. Ever hear the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”? That means that 1) computers are stupid and 2) will do EXACTLY what you tell it to. So, if you put garbage logic in don’t be surprised if you get gobbledygook out. I gave up teaching the boys programming because I wasn’t sure how to teach them the logic or programming. Sure, I could teach them about “if, then” statements or looping but that wasn’t the whole enchilada.
Last year, we discovered iTunesUniversity. We already knew about Open Courseware from leading universities. It wasn’t until my husband presented me with an iPod and a gift card did I find that iTunes had an awful lot to offer besides music. There are podcasts and videos and movies and TV shows, oh my! It took us a whole year to spend just $10 because we could never totally agree on what to buy. Because, you know, I was busy downloading all the free stuff. Wait, I mean, ALL the FREE stuff. Then I discovered that you could download this stuff to your computer without the iPod. Oooh, shiney!
But I digress, so there was iTunesUniversity. I was transfixed by all that was available. Many more things have been added it, and continue to be added. The K-12 category is pretty darn lame though. I’ve searched and searched for nuggets but nothing that makes me giddy or my heart jump even a little. No, the real nuggets here are the “Universities & Colleges”. http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/
Within the iTunes application environment, if you just click on “Universities & Colleges” you will be overwhelmed by all the schools there. Better to scroll down the page to find the heading “Collections” under “MORE ON iTUNES”. There you will find the subjects that are covered. I chose “Intro College Courses” for teenage Boy. Oh, the wonders I found there. Any college course you can think of is included here. The caveat is that not all of them are full courses. However, they are a good introductory to a teen because it will give them an idea of what is required in a college course. I’m all about easing kids into new things and this fits that bill.
Back to programming. I heard from someone, or read it somewhere, that Standford University offers classes on iTunes. In case you don’t know, Stanford is located at the heart of Silicon Valley. This got me to wondering what classes they might offer in programming. As I read I found that many of their classes required CS106A: Programming Methodology. It focuses on the logic of programming while also teaching a basic form of Java. Java is used in so many different ways you probably have it in your car and your refrigerator as well as the computer you are using to read this. Can you hear the angels sing?
The best thing (this is the “but wait…there’s more!” part) you don’t have to have iTunes downloaded to your computer to get all this fabulousness. There lectures can be viewed on YouTube and 3 other platforms (something called Vyew, WMV Torrent, and MP4 Torrent). Stanford provides 99% of what you will need for this class for FREE here: http://see.stanford.edu/. The only thing they don’t seem to provide, of course, is the textbook “The Art and Science of Java by Eric Roberts”. Amazon is selling this for about $90 or you can rent it from Barnes & Noble for about $30. Yes, there is a free pdf of this book but it isn’t the final, nor updated, version. I’d rather have the real thing and will probably rent it from B&N.
We have listened to the first two lectures, downloaded everything, and even poked around Karel the robot’s environment. The boys love the professor because he is animated and funny and very good at explaining and showing. We are all loving it! I’m loving reading the Karel book to the boys because it gives me a chance to share my “war stories” with them. It’s given us a way to bond beyond making cookies. Their mom is no longer just a washerwoman and cook but a real person who once had a life outside of their world. I so can’t wait until we get to the real dirty work of actual programming which happens in lecture 4.
We are having such fun and that’s why I can say I recommend this class. I’ll keep you up to date on our progress. Let me know if you and your child decide to take it up and what your results were, please. Happy Computing!